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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Smackdown! tones down content


By FRAZIER MOORE -- Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- They said "Smackdown!" would undergo a Tonedown!

Sure enough, Thursday night's edition of "WWF Smackdown!" on UPN was a model of decorum -- relatively speaking, anyway.

No one grabbed anybody's crotch just for spite.

No superstars made an entrance spewing beer.

No women wrestlers were seen ripping each other's costumes off. (Come to think of it, where WERE those buxom women wrestlers? The two hours were overwhelmingly a male affair.)

Put-downs? Nothing too raunchy or fierce. Consider this ringside zinger aimed at jumbo-size Rikishi: "He don't wear 501 jeans. He wears 1002!"

Granted, "clean up" is in the eyes of the beholder. But if this "Smackdown!" (taped Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif.) was any indication, the World Wrestling Federation made good on Monday's pledge to clean up its act.

But not too good.

After all, bad guy fighter DX, costumed in a football uniform, still wore on his jersey the less-than-polite motto "Suck It." Vows were voiced by several of the wrestlers to kick a rival's three-letter-word-for-rear-end.

Meanwhile, sweet Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWF chairman Vince McMahon, was forced to reckon with having been tricked into marrying the villainous Triple H after he had drugged her in Las Vegas.

Stephanie's father and brother were visibly devastated. So was her fiance, the noble superstar Test.

Choking with emotion, Stephanie spoke to the world from the ring of the sold-out arena, promising revenge. How will she pay back Triple H? Fans will have to wait to learn where this strand of the WWF melodrama goes next.

Let's face it, professional wrestling on TV is like "All My Children" with a studio audience. It's like "The Jerry Springer Show" in tights.

Indeed, the current brouhaha, sparked by Coca-Cola and other advertisers pulling out of WWF telecasts, recalls the uproar over so-called "trash-talk" programs like "Springer."

"It crossed the line in terms of content," a Coke spokesman said of the WWF's not-so-family-friendly spectacles. To that, the federation's marketing director responded that shows, which appear on cable as well as on broadcast TV, would contain "less use of colorful language and less sexuality."

For its part, UPN was staying out of the fight. No wonder. "Smackdown!," which premiered in August and immediately became UPN's highest-rated offering, has been the first series to get the 5-year-old network off the mat.

"We were comfortable with 'Smackdown!' being rated TV-14 and we're equally comfortable with it being rated TV-PG," the network said in a statement this week.

But, oddly enough, Thursday's broadcast still carried the more permissive TV-14. Even without all those women wrestlers!